Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Apollo’s Girl

May 14, 2017

Film

Exiles: Away From Home…

Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe
(Opens May 12 in NYC at Lincoln Plaza;
June 16 in LA at Laemmle Royal)

For a rich and deeply satisfying look back at Germany between the wars (this time through the eyes of one of its most celebrated exiles), see Maria Schrader’s Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe. This is a big, beautifully made film, powerful and affective. The screenplay (by Schrader and Jan Schomburg) gives all of Zweig’s complexities their due; his refusal to condemn Germany, his ambivalence about his fame, his need for both solitude and for friends and family in exile. Schrader has chosen a cool, objective approach to her subject, which frames the white heat of politics and culture threatening to burst into flame in every sequence, and hooks you from Scene One.

The cast is an Olympian match for the material: Josef Hader (as Zweig); Barbara Sukowa and Aenne Schwarz (as Zweig’s first and second wives, both of whom accompanied him abroad en famille), and a host of others (playing the many artists and politicians who were integral to Zweig’s circle) create an entirely believable moment when the world was turned upside down and changed forever. Schrader, famous for her role in Aimėe & Jaguar, applies all her acting smarts to her cast’s talents and draws a gorgeous film from DP Wolfgang Thaler and editor Hanzjőrg Weißrich.

Because the technical, aesthetic and dramatic elements are always in perfect balance, and the tensions between Zweig’s inner life and his public persona heighten the intensity of the portrait, it’s as close to total immersion as you can get without actually having been there. Surely you will be inspired to move on to Zweig’s novels and essays, which made him the most successful writer of his time and have continued to remain the basis of dozens of films right up to Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel of 2014. (P.S.: Pay attention to the way the end of Zweig is shot. Fascinating choices!) Deservedly Austria’s nominee for Best Foreign Film.

ELIÁN
(Opens May 12 in NYC at Cinema Village;
June 2 at O Cinema Miami Beach)

Full of turbulence and moving at warp speed, Elián will keep you breathless and on the edge of your seat right up to the end of the narrative: Elián Gonzalez was only a little boy when he was found alone, clinging to an inner tube, in the ocean between Havana and Miami. The boat on which he had traveled with his mother, her boyfriend and dozens of Cuban refugees had sunk, and his mother had drowned. Overnight, the beautiful child became a sensation—television crews and reporters swarmed the house where he lived with the Miami aunts, great-uncles and cousins who had claimed him. The media circus exploded into a cause célèbre for Miami’s Cuban exiles, always at the boiling point, and for the many public officials who joined the efforts (pro and con) to grant American citizenship to Elián and to prevent his return to Cuba, where his father (who had learned he was gone only after the boy and his mother had fled under cover of darkness) had immediately sought to reclaim his son.

Photo by Shaun Best REUTERS

Eventually, members of Congress and Janet Reno (then Attorney General) determined Elián should live in Cuba with his father. The fire and brimstone that accompanied every twist in the story were shocking in their ferocity. There were daily confrontations on the streets of Miami and Havana; instead of cooling with the passing of time, the violence escalated, with demonstrators, police, Federal agencies, religious institutions and—always—hordes of media pouring accelerant on the flames. The ugliness lasted six months, until Elian’s father flew to Andrews Air Force Base to join his son after Federal agents stormed the home in Miami where Elian, hiding in a closet, was literally snatched from the arms of the fisherman who had originally found him. The entire affair could not be forgotten; its after-effects impacted the presidential election of 2000, and US foreign policy for over a decade.

Benefitting from a wealth of footage (which spares us none of the competing opinions and shameful frenzy of the many participants), Elián is still remarkably even-handed. Not only in exposing the disturbing zealotry of the exiles in Miami (which caused the INS the Border Patrol to stage the armed rescue raid that terrified the little boy), but in Cuba as well. Through no fault of his own, Elián had became a pawn in the United States as a symbol of “democracy”, and then again in Cuba where, after his return, he was “adopted” by Castro as a symbol of Cuban ideals.

Despite the heat of its subject, this film is told and made by experts who really know their stuff: Ross McDonnell and Tim Golden have, between them, filmed and written prize-winning material that is both intensely emotional and impeccably researched. As I discovered while digging through the internet, Golden published a piece in 1994 (it haunts me still) read article here about how the US destroyed the then-state-of-the-art Cuban health care system, several others about Elián Gonzalez, and a series on the abuses of Guantanamo.

There is no question that Elián will roil your heart and your mind as you are horrified by the brutality of the forces pulling at the traumatized six-year-old. The film also spends quality time with the grownup Elian, who seems to have weathered the storms of politics, just as he once weathered the shipwreck that left him without a mother and at the mercy of forces far beyond his control. Whatever your feelings about the issues, you will be shaken by this chapter of very recent history whose ending still remains to be written. Don’t miss it.



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Fearless Predictions

June 2, 2012

Uncle Vanya (June 7–July 15, Soho Rep): Chekhov’s 1897 play is being presented in a “new version,” adapted by Annie Baker. Baker is in the unusual position of having shared an Obie award with herself, for two plays produced in New York in 2009: Circle Mirror Transformation and The Aliens. The director who helped shape her work in those plays, Sam Gold, is staging this one. Baker’s widely praised skills with natural dialogue and lost-soul characters make this a good bet. Incidentally, in Uncle Vanya Chekhov illustrates his oft-repeated maxim: “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired” (though in this case it’s fired even later). Information on the production and related events here http://sohorep.org/uncle-vanya 
(‘Tis the season for Vanya productions—one earlier this spring by Target Margin preceded Soho Rep’s. And there’s more.)

Uncle Vanya,  Sydney Theatre Company (July 19–28),
Lincoln Center Festival):
In midsummer, yet another will arrive, delivered by the Sydney Theatre Company, with co-Artistic Directors Cate Blanchett and her husband, Andrew Upton. Here, an adaptation by Upton is performed by a cast that includes Blanchett as well as Hugo Weaving. The production won acclaim when it played at the Kennedy Center last August. Tickets are now on sale; but be warned that this is the kind of show that sells out. http://www.lincolncenterfestival.org/index.php/2012-uncle-vanya.

The Lathe of Heaven (June 6–30, Untitled Theatre Company #61, 3LD): Ursula K. Le Guin, author of the SF novella about a man whose dreams can change reality, has authorized this stage adaptation by Edward Einhorn, which the UTC61 website suggests will contrast Western and Taoist themes. The novel does much the same, and Le Guin’s title nods to a Chinese Taoist who fashioned the conundrum of the butterfly dream. conundrum

Maybe we don’t need a third version, after WNET’s in 1980 and a less-successful one by A&E of 2002? Ah, but we always need reminders of the uses and abuses of power, which is one way of viewing Le Guin’s story. 6_The_Lathe_of_Heaven.html                                                           —JEB

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Apollos Girl

February 21, 2011

 

The Center at the Center of the World: No Pain, No Gain

Back when the Whitney Museum mounted SCANNING: the Aberrant Architecture of Diller+Scofidio, the partners were beating back the outer edges of technology and art with conceptual works filling vitrines, marching on little tracks, and (literally) hammering holes in the walls. They had won the only MacArthur Award ever given for architecture, and one could see that they were clever. One could also imagine that they were frustrated, having attracted lots of private art commissions, but only two actual buildings. One, Blur, was more or less made of water; the other was Slither– social housing in Gifu, Japan. Sophisticated and ingenious, but surprisingly free of attitude, it worked at every level.

However, it was lost in SCANNING’s haze of preciousness, which for all its brilliance was off-putting, and obscured what was—within the context of that show—evidence that they could also stand and deliver seriously good architecture. It’s true that they were already at work on New York’s Eyebeam and Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, but who knew that the mother lode of Lincoln Center would be waiting in the wings?

This time, they’re still standing (having survived what must have been some scary backstage politics, with many, many hands eager to stir the architectural broth) and have delivered a sophisticated and ingenious program of unimaginable complexity. Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing for results that are, so far, exhilarating—ample reward for years of simply trying to navigate the maze of temporary construction and poor signage lit by naked bulbs just to find one’s way to theater or concert hall. In fact, Alice Tully Hall has been transformed from its conservative geometric stodge into a ringing, swinging multi-purpose wonder. Watch Juilliard dancers in the second-floor practice room, seminars in the WLIW studio fronting Broadway, and try the mini-arena seating to view the passing parade or peer into the corner café. It’s all-glass, all the time, and never repeats itself.

The best way to see new buildings and theaters changing, or taking, shape is simply to get down to the West Side and wander through the campus while it’s still in progress. Definitely worth the trip, even before you’ve set foot in a building to see what’s on stage. Don’t rush – it’s about exploration, about watching the 21st century materialize before your eyes — and the process is fascinating!  Or search before you go. lincoln center  (Only cavil: the roof of the restaurant really looks like AstroTurf.)


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